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On the track to good habits

I got an email the other day: “Well, I’m the new owner of a chocolate lab pup, even though I knew it would cause some drastic changes in my life.”

I replied. “OUTSTANDING! Chocolate labs are my all time favorite! It suits you. They are exuberant and highly intelligent. (A little stubborn also.)”

“I just got him last night, and he did pretty well until I tried to put him in a kennel so I could go to bed. He whined and barked so much that I thought the only way I would get any sleep was to put him in the bed with me, so I did (and still got very little sleep). He’s back in the kennel now until I get home from work, and he’ll probably whine and cry all day long. That’s all I knew to do with him, though.”

“I think your crate is a great idea. He should only whine and howl for 15 minutes. Just do NOT let him out when he is acting up. That only encourages him to howl and whine for longer. And longer and longer. Let’s set you up on the ‘puppy plan’.

“This is all very new to me, and even though he is super cute, I’m still not convinced that having a dog is the best idea for me. I had complete freedom until I let my niece talk me into taking him in, and that has all changed now.”

My advice: “BTW all relationships require some commitment and trade offs. I think you will be happy with this one, but I do want to get you set up on the right track before too many bad habits set in.”

The very next day, I met a handsome young pup who got a clean physical exam with all “goods” on all his tests. This family friend had done a lot of things right: he got a puppy from a reputable breeder; Duncan was between 6 – 8 weeks old which is the ideal time for a new puppy, but anytime can be made to work; and, John had been talking about a puppy for a couple of months, so he had been thinking about it. And probably most important of all, he had asked for help early on. We saw Duncan and tested him for parasites, started vaccinations and taught his dad about behavior, puppy habits, housebreaking, diet, crate training and the vaccination schedule.

Days later: “He has been getting quiet more quickly when I first put him in his crate at bedtime, but he still carries on at about 3 a.m. or so for a little longer. Did you say that I should leave him in there until I’m ready to get up in the morning, because that’s what I’ve been doing.”

Me: “Thanks for checking in. I was going to email, but didn’t want you to think I was stalking or something. My bet is at 3 a.m. is that he has to go pee. Take him out but do NOT praise him much at all.

Reply: I went home and he ate some then. I’m seeing some progress on all fronts as I’m trying to follow your instructions. I don’t guess I’ll be bringing him over this evening, so I’ll just plan on seeing you Tuesday unless anything changes.

Then the bombshell: “I wanted to tell you that I’ve been thinking of passing the pup on to someone else that has more time to take care of him. I know it’s only been a week, but I fear that the longer I wait, the harder it will be for me to let him go. I gave up all logic and rational thought when I took him in, and now it’s hitting me pretty hard. As you know, I stay busy with two full-time jobs. I just think he deserves to live with someone who can spend more time with him.”

Oh, no!

To be continued…

MJ Wixsom practices veterinarian medicine at Guardian Animal Medical Center in Flatwoods, Ky. For questions, call 606-928-6566.